If you had taken the Victoria Line to the Seven Sisters before March 2020, you might have felt like you had left London altogether.
The Latin village, affectionately known as ‘Little Colombia’, is usually a beehive of salsabeats, with delicious aromas of tamales and empanadas hovering around every corner, and neighbors shouting at each other in Spanish.
The market, also called the London United Nations because of its diversity, is the culinary and cultural center of an area made up mainly of South American migrants.
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Times are tough thanks to the pandemic, with many shops, restaurants and stalls still closed.
But the past two years are nothing compared to society’s 15-year struggle against the demolition of the market, which they apparently won.
Nicholas Amayo was part of the fight to stop the demolition of the market. He is also deputy chairman of the tenants’ association Syv Søstre Marked, which helps to rehouse tenants in the area.
He told MyLondon: “It’s been a long battle. It was good news that the developer finally decided to withdraw, in part because of the campaign we were waging against them.
“This has been an ongoing struggle for many years … where we just fail to accept their proposed vision of rebuilding the Seven Sisters market.”
The market had fallen victim to years of decline and underinvestment, leading to the Haringey Council earmarking Latin Village for redevelopment in 2002. Two years later, Grainger PLC won a bid to demolish the site and redesign it with 196 new apartments.
So when Grainger announced in August 2021 that it would no longer move forward with the plans, the community celebrated.
What is clear is that the victory in August was only the beginning of this society, which has kept moving forward with its own vision,Community plan‘.
To preserve the culture
The plan proposes the community-led development of the Wards Corner Building and Seven Sisters Mark under four primary principles: self-management, affordable rent, new local area and reinvestment.
If the plan were to be implemented, the building would be restored and administered by market vendors and the local community. New social spaces would be created with cheap office space, and profits generated by the market would be reinvested in the building.
The plan received a building permit in 2019 and is supported by the Haringey Council.
Ben Beach, an architectural designer working on the plan with the architectural workers’ cooperative Unit 38, stressed the importance of community-driven urban development taking place across the capital.
He told MyLondon: “The city is losing its cultural substance, thousands of cultural sites that have been closed or threatened with closure … the need to create spaces where our culture can exist is more important than ever in the wake of the pandemic.
“Instead of maximizing the value of distant shareholders, the community plan acts as a catalyst for building community wealth.”
A friendly, open community
According to Ben, the idea of community-driven development is well supported by market traders and by the wider community.
Cem Kaplan, who is from Turkey and owns the Café Lemon coffee bar around the corner from Seven Sisters Market, said he had been following community activism and that he would like to get involved in the future to help in any way he can.
For him, diversity is what the field is all about.
He told MyLondon: “It’s a friendly and open community that is shared by all. It’s a mix of different kinds of groups.”
He said he was proud to live in such a diverse community and hopes the area will remain this way in the future.
Life after Covid
Due to the high number of traders still unable to return to work due to the pandemic, the council has expressed their support for getting the village up and running again.
Peray Ahmet, head of the Haringey Council, told the Guardian: “We are extremely concerned about the situation of traders who have not been able to trade since March 2020. Our immediate priority is to be informed by TfL of their plans for a temporary market.and most importantly, when it will be up and running.
“While TfL’s disbursements to retailers were a welcome intervention, we also need to understand their proposals and time frames to continue this much-needed financial support.”
Despite the support, there is still uncertainty and not just because of Covid.
Nicholas noted that Transport for London, which owns the land, still needs to carry out significant work on the buildings to bring it up to date.
Even with the support of Haringey Council, the future is unclear.
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Nicholas said: “What that support actually means, we have to wait and see. It’s good to have the council on board, as the council was not with us before.
“But there are choices on the way again, so you can have one side that is sympathetic, and then we might be able to return to where we were if there is a change of leadership.”
What is ultimately clear is that this campaign has always been and will continue to be about people.
Patrick Rey, who works on the money market in the market, told MyLondon: “It started as a struggle to save the market, but it turned out to be a struggle for value as a human being.
“To become known as Patrick – not just as a trader, not just as someone who’s on the market, but as a human being.”
The future of the Latin village may still be unclear, but one thing is for sure – they will not give up easily.
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